MANILA - The Philippines may not distribute recently delivered AstraZeneca vaccines to private sector frontliners who are outside the priority list of the COVAX facility, the platform through which the fresh batch of 2 million jabs were donated, a health official said Wednesday.
This, after former COVID-19 task force adviser Dr. Tony Leachon called for the use of the AstraZeneca jabs for frontliners in essential industries in the private sector to speed up use of the vaccine batch set to expire in June.
Essential frontliners in the private sector, including market vendors, store clerks, restaurant staff, security personnel, and media workers, among others, fall under government's A4 category for inoculation, which is not among top priorities under COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing platform.
Violation of COVAX protocol may lead to the country losing vaccine allocations, officials earlier said.
"Ang priority ng COVAX ay A1, A2, A3," said Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, referring to the priority brackets for vaccinations.
(The COVAX facility prioritizes A1, A2, A3.)
A1 refers to health workers, A2 cover senior citizens, and A3 covers persons with comorbidities.
"Hindi natin puwede ibigay sa ibang areas [kasi] hindi siya allotted for A4," she said in a briefing on state TV.
(We cannot give the vaccines to other areas because it is not allotted for A4.)
The DOH will have to check which vaccines will be available by the end of the month and use that for others outside the COVAX priority list, she said.
"Baka puwede na 'yung Sinovac at Gamaleya kapag dumating na," she said.
(Maybe we can use Sinovac or Gamelaya once they arrive.)
The national government plans to "expand the existing number of vaccination sites" to increase the average number of daily vaccinations to 70,000 from the current 30,000 to 40,000 rate, Cabotaje said.
"We would like to reach at least more than 70,000 per day for the next month... We will have more so we can have 100-200k per day," she said.
So far, the Philippines has yet to vaccinate 23 percent or 1.1 million health workers, and 7.3 million senior citizens, according to data from the DOH.
The government earlier said it would begin the vaccination of the A4 priority group next month.
The Philippines aims to inoculate at least 70 million people to achieve herd immunity.
- report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News